Scientists call for a creation of task force to classify ageing as a disease

Scientists are calling on experts to establish a task force to carefully evaluate the basis of the classification of ageing as a disease. Some experts believe that the new classification of ageing would unite scientists and medical practitioners in efforts to prevent pathological age-related processes and would also attract more resources for research about ageing.

The possible collaboration would potentially lead the shift of focus of biomedicine from providing treatment to researching for prevention, scientists said. However, there is a clear disagreement among gerontologists, biogerontologists and demographers on the idea.

Scientists from Insilico Medicine, a bioinformatics company in the U.S., suggested the idea for the 11th World Health Organisation’s International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD-11). The World Health Organisation (WHO) is expected to finalise ICD-11 in 2018.

In a new paper published in the journal Frontiers in Genetics, the idea resulted from the analysis of the evolution of practices for disease classification and the improvements after the seminal Nosolagae Methodicae synopsis of William Cullen was published in 1769.

Insilico scientists also explored some additions to the previous ICD-10, including conditions like obesity, which may help the process of classifying ageing as a disease.

“Ageing is a complex multifactorial process leading to loss of function and a very broad spectrum of diseases,” Alex Zhavoronkov, CEO of Insilico Medicine, Inc., said in a press release. “While the notion of whether ageing itself is a disease is usually disputed; classifying it as such will help shift the focus of biomedicine from treatment to prevention.”

Zhavoronkov added that efforts to maintain the human body in the “disease-free youthful state” would be a pressing economic necessity. This would affect people in developed countries who tend to face the heavy burden of medical costs.

“Classifying ageing as a disease with multiple ‘non-garbage’ ICD codes may help create business cases for large pharmaceutical companies to focus more R&D resources on this important field,” he stated.